Lenihan: 'Economy to recover -- so will I'
Minister, upbeat about retail bounce, does not intend to resign
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan will not step down from his position and is looking forward to a "full and vigorous year ahead".
The minister will undergo further medical tests in the coming weeks and plans to make a statement on his health tomorrow.
As well as addressing recent reports that he is suffering from cancer, he will map out what needs to be done to maintain the revival of the Irish economy.
"Fortunately in the Department of Finance the first half of the year is quieter than the second and so that will give me a chance to undergo a course of treatment in anticipation of a full recovery," he told the Sunday Independent yesterday.
The minister was in an upbeat mood in Dublin city centre when he visited several bookshops -- and top of his list was Peter Clarke's new biography of John Maynard Keynes, titled Keynes: The Twentieth Century's Most Influential Economist.
The minister said that there would be no emergency budget this year but his department was already working on the next Budget, set for December.
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"The exchequer returns are out next Tuesday and I expect some slight improvement in the tax returns for the month of December," he said. "I am glad to see that there was more spending in the retail economy this Christmas than last year, as far as can be judged," he added.
Paradoxically, he believes the bad weather also played a part in helping the retail sector in that it deterred many shoppers from making the arduous journey to Belfast and border towns like Newry.
Mr Lenihan is now convinced that the Irish economy is "turning the corner" and recent measures have led to a stabilisation of the public finances. Much of the credit must go to the minister, whose tough budget stance last month led to a new public mood of confidence that the worst of the financial crash was over and that with proper financial management the Irish economy could return to growth before the end of this year.
Within the past week the Taoiseach Brian Cowen has expressed his support for Mr Lenihan continuing with his Finance portfolio and the popular minister has been receiving public and private messages of goodwill from many sections of Irish life.
Meanwhile, well-known cancer specialist Professor John Crown has clarified the circumstances in which he participated in the controversial TV3 broadcast on St Stephen's Day, in which it was announced that Mr Lenihan was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
"I would not have agreed to participate without the assurance that the minister had been informed," Prof Crown said in an exclusive article for the Sunday Independent.
"Raising awareness of pancreas cancer, an important health issue in Ireland, could only be a good thing" he writes. "I was also aware that the audience would likely include many pancreatic cancer patients and their families, including Mr Lenihan and his family."
He added that the "reported anger of government press spokesmen at my interview must be seen in the context of the systematic government disinformation campaign on the issue of cancer and other health services in this country".
The TV3 broadcast has led to more than 70 complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. And as of last night, almost 4,000 people had signed up to a Facebook page titled 'Politics aside, we wish Brian Lenihan well'. Among the comments, there were many critical of TV3.